Fewer Americans are filing for unemployment benefits now than at any time since January 1973, according to reports released Thursday by the Department of Labor.
Jobless claims for the week ending March 24 dropped to 215,000. This is lower than the 230,000 expected, and 12,000 less than the previous week. Anything under 300,000 for a single week is considered consistent with a healthy job market. Unemployment claims have remained under 300,000 for the past 158 weeks in a row. This is the longest streak under 300,000 since 1970.
The labor market is currently considered to be at or near full employment.
The report also states that the four week average of Americans applying for unemployment benefits was 1,861,500. According to the Department of Labor, “This is the lowest level for this average since January 5, 1974 when it was 1,838,500.”
This news echoes the last jobs report, released March 9, which put the unemployment rate at 4.1 percent, the lowest it has been in 17 years. The Federal Reserve predicted that by the end of 2018, that rate will hit 3.8 percent.
The jobs report from earlier this month also showed that February was the 89th consecutive month of job gains. The latest Department of Labor numbers look at the number of applications filed for unemployment benefits, and are separate from the overall statistics on unemployment that come out in the monthly jobs report.
While the adjusted numbers for the week ending March 17 were unchanged from the previous week, the week ending March 10 had a lower rate than the week before it, and less than the same week in 2017.
The number of federal civilian employees filing for benefits also dropped, but the rate for newly discharged veterans rose by 376 applications from the week before.
According to Reuters:
“Economists are optimistic that tightening labor market conditions will start boosting wage growth in the second half of this year. That should help to support consumer spending, which slowed at the start of the year.”
However, these low numbers could also indicate a lack of options for employers. Bloomberg reported that “claims at the lowest level in 45 years underscore a persistent shortage of qualified workers that has made employers reluctant to fire staff.”